How can parents use similarities and differences to assist their children’s learning? Listen as Steve explores strategies parents can use to support their student learner’s understanding and problem solving skills.
Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes.
Announcer : 00:00 We are all facing the unique challenges of working and learning from home. The near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools or NESA is holding it’s next networked learning series featuring Steve Barkley. “Personalized Coaching With Steve Barkley” will address the unique challenges and opportunities instructional coaches, administrators, teacher leaders, and mentors are presented with during this time. Take your skills to the next level with this online, facilitated, personally coached, six week program with Steve Barkley. Learn more at barkleypd.com.
Steve [Intro]: 00:41 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve: 01:14 Supporting learners’ understanding with similarities and differences. Throughout this podcast series, we’re exploring strategies that parents can use as they work to support their student learners. In this podcast, I want to address the strategy of looking for similarities and differences as a way to assisting the student in reaching understanding and in approaching problem solving. Searching for similarities and differences when in a new situation is a natural process of the brain. When confronted with something new, different or unfamiliar, we ask, how is this like something that I already know and how is it different? An example that occurs for me with frequency, is arriving at an airport in a foreign country with signs and labels that I can’t translate. I spot similarities and use patterns from my past to experiment, either to confirm my understanding or to cause me to see that this pattern doesn’t work here.
Steve: 02:36 So I’m back to looking for more similarities and more differences that will change my understanding. As I exit the plane and enter the terminal, I recall a pattern from my past that baggage claim is usually down. I look for indicators that my expectation or understanding applies in this instance. You’ve experienced this application of similarities and differences with a young child who, accidentally at first, while pulling themselves up with a cabinet handle, discovers that the door opens. Note how quickly they apply that discovery, testing it out on every knob that they see and as their parents you’re running to purchase safety locks. Another application of this same different pattern occurs when a young child goes on a trip to the supermarket and they encounter a person out front with a dog. On a return visit, they’re expecting to find that same person with their dog in front of the supermarket.
Steve: 04:00 The child needs more repeated visits in order to sort out what are long existing patterns from what is different. What should I expect to be the same at the supermarket and what would I understand as being different? When your child is stuck with a new problem, task, a new word, you might begin by asking them, “what do you see that’s the same as something you already know and what seems different?” Suppose while reading your learner looked up at you and asked, what does antisocial mean?” You might respond by asking, “do you know what it means to be social?” Your child might respond with, “yeah, friendly to lots of people.” You might then ask, “what does the anti-bullying program at your school mean?” Your child might respond by saying, “well, it means stop bullying or against bullying,” and you then ask “what would it mean if you took anti and added it onto the word social to make antisocial?”
Steve: 05:22 Here’s another example. Suppose your child was stuck on a math problem that said, put these numbers in order from smallest to largest, 3.41 34.1 0.341. Again, ask the question, “looking at the numbers, what’s the same and what’s different?” Your child would respond that the numbers three, four and one appear on all three. The location of the decimal is different. Let’s take those numbers now and write them in a straight column. Keeping the decimals in a straight line. 3.41, 34.1, 0.341. Then as your child, “do you notice anything?” Now your child might respond with, “34 seems to be the biggest.” Your response back, “yes, that’s 34 and one 10th.” And your child says, “then three is the next biggest?” And you respond, “yes, that’s three and 41 hundredths.” And your child responds “so 0.341 must be the smallest.” And you’d respond, “you got it.” We can actually put a zero in front of that, 0.341 because it’s less than one whole. It’s 341 thousandths. Searching for similarities and differences builds the identification of generalizations or patterns and it’s also used to analyze things. These are often precursors to appraising, evaluating and decision making. Imagine that you’re exploring with your high school student the course selection options for the next year. Here’s how same different questions might set up that kind of decision making.
Steve: 07:50 What are the required courses? What are the required areas where you can select a course that fulfills that requirement? What room is there for open electives? This analysis by creating three different categories is done by identifying similarities and differences. Looking at the courses in the required area, let’s start with math. How are the options for a math class similar or different from each other? How would each of those course options impact your future options, your workload, possible ranking, personal satisfactions? This now prepares the student to prioritize what’s important, to evaluate the options and make a choice. Look for opportunities that you can model how you look for and differences in increasing your understanding.
Steve: 09:03 When you look at a new recipe, do you consider how it’s the same and different from others that you’ve prepared? When looking at the directions to a new board game or card game that the family’s going to play? Do you compare how the directions to the game are similar to games we already know and then important how they’re different? When making a replacement purchase, in what ways do you want the replacement to be the same or different from the original that you’re replacing? As you consciously encourage and support your learner in identifying similarities and differences in order to analyze and generalize, you are supporting critical thinking and problem solving skills that are important life skills. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 10:11 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.